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Chinese Eye Fiji Investment Opportunities


China has sent a delegation of entrepreneurs and government officials to Fiji to strengthen relations. The delegation is a new sign that Fiji's military government is looking for alternative international support to counter sanctions imposed by Australia, New Zealand and the United States over a coup in 2006.

Fiji's Trade and Investment Bureau is welcoming 40 Chinese officials and businesspeople, who are promising large investments in fishing, forestry and tourism.

The visit come as Fiji's military government faces international pressure to reform. It was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional body, in April after the military government said it would not allow elections for at least five years.

Australia and New Zealand have imposed limited sanctions and Fiji, once the economic and diplomatic hub of the South Pacific, has become increasingly isolated.

Fiji's economy is faltering, a result of political uncertainties and the global slowdown. Adding to the problems, the European Union recently ended a subsidy for Fiji's ailing sugar cane industry.

Fiji's trade minister, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, is keen to develop a closer relationship with China.

"Such cooperation between countries that seek opportunities for mutual benefit, whilst respecting the individual governments, is important to engender trust and true friendships," he said.

Over the past several years, China has successfully signed new trade deals, particularly for commodities, by working with governments that face economic sanctions from other countries. For instance, China has trades extensively with Sudan, despite the civil war in Darfur and sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States.

Fijian troops, under the command of army chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama, seized power in a bloodless coup in 2006.

The take-over was declared illegal by Fiji's Court of Appeal in April. The country's president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, an ally of Commodore Bainimarama, responded by tearing up the constitution and firing the judiciary before giving the military government even greater powers.

The army says it will return the country to democracy only when a "corrupt" political system has been reformed. Commodore Bainimarama accuse the last elected government of pursuing racist policies against Fiji's ethnic Indian minority.

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